Risking the Truth: Handling error in the church by Martin Downes is a collection of twenty interviews, plus an introductory and two concluding chapters. The interviews are with a variety of reformed church leaders and professors from around the world. Interviewees include Carl Trueman, Tom Schreiner, Michael Horton, Mark Dever, Michael Ovey, Ligon Duncan and Greg Beale and so should give readers a good insight into the concerns and issues that reformed leaders believe they are facing.
The whole tone of the book is somewhat defensive though, the questions posed are all about the dangers reformed Christianity faces. The world is full of error, heresy, false teachers, sin and the devils schemes and if some of these leaders are to be believed the church is worse.
The book is at its best when the interview has a specific focus such as Greg Beale on inerrancy, Robert Peterson on the doctrine of hell, Ligon Duncan on the Federal Vision and New Perspective on Paul and Kim Riddlebarger on amillenianism against dispensationalism. These interviews are interesting and insightful as each has a specific and clear contribution to a broader debate and will serve pastors well.
Conversely the other chapters are less interesting and less helpful, the questions are generic and don’t always add very much to anything in particular unless you’re interested in that particular pastors point of view. The one exception to that is the interview with Conrad Mbewe giving as it does the perspective of a reformed pastor in Zambia which brings a different and unique viewpoint.
The world of the ‘reformed’ is increasingly in the spotlight, enjoying something of a revival especially in the USA and yet despite this resurgence remains a group, if this volume is anything to go by, that is defensive and rather fearful. So while this volume is aimed at those inside the reformed movement it will do little to attract others to reformed Christianity.
Here are a few observations from the various interviews, firstly it would be a mistake to view ‘reformed’ as a uniform block. There are narrow, very narrow and extremely narrow views as to who is acceptable and who might be saved. I find myself excluded by many.
One view put forward is that anyone who claims ‘the gift of miracles and healing is a crook and a liar’, while ‘tongues speaking is gibberish’ and the main theological dangers confronting us today include the introduction of drums into worship, the use of humour, powerpoint and women reading the Bible in church.
Secondly, all claim that the Westminster Confession and others like it are not Scripture but equally it is true that you won’t find anything in Scripture that contradicts these confessions either!
Lastly, it seems that being ‘reformed’ remains a very serious business indeed, being a Christian remains a serious undertaking, teaching in a seminary more serious still while leading a church is such a serious business that one wonders where joy is to be found among those who love the ‘doctrines of grace’.